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Archive for the ‘Anthro/Development’ Category

Life After ADST

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but a lot has happened in the past two weeks. I turned in my dissertation on time, and had several days to edit, so I’m completely done with all the work for my MA. That evening I celebrated with loads of people from Kings Road, my program, and my flatmates, and put a dent in the bottle of rum that Alvaro won for his pirate costume. The next day I had to move out of my flat, so of course things were pretty hectic. Emily and I moved all our stuff to Alvaro’s new flat, so that we had a few days to relax and hang out in Brighton without having to worry about academic work. There was lots of relaxing, watching tv and movies, wandering around town, and eating really good food. On one of the days, we took the bus and went walking around Beacy Head and the Seven Sisters. Though the day started out dreary and foggy, it turned out to be a sunny, gorgeous afternoon. Walking in some of England’s most beautiful countryside was quite a change from being cooped up in my room churning out my dissertation.

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After having a mini-ADST reunion and saying ‘goodbye’ to many of my closest friends for the past year (many of whom I hope to see again in the near future!)…

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Thad helped me move all my stuff to Oxford. The move actually went more smoothly than I expected, considering all the suitcases and bags (and my bike!) that we transported on the train. Since then I’ve been busy getting settled, and trying to find places to store and organize our stuff has taken up the majority of the past few days. Thad and I have still managed to enjoy the great weather lately though, between walking Phoenix, picking blackberries, and going punting.

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Tomorrow is my first day working at Plan UK, and I hope it goes well! It will be interesting (and possibly exhausting) to commute to London three days per week in a row, but I’m hoping it will be a good experience. Then, on Friday, I begin my part-time job at Starbucks. The things that getting a master’s degree qualify you for….. 🙂

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Dissertation Update

18,000 words down, one conclusion and LOTS (and I mean LOTS) of editing to go.

Cannot wait to be done!

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The dissertation is slowly but surely growing, and I’m finally approaching the 15,000 word mark (which I will hopefully surpass tomorrow).  For the past couple of weeks my routine has primarily consisted of waking up early, showering, breakfast, putting on pajamas (my dissertation uniform), and writing (or trying to write) all day.  Sometimes I may exit the building to buy groceries or shampoo, or simply to escape for a bit.  I will be so excited when I am finished, because it means I will be able to work out, get my hair cut, cook healthy food, and generally take care of myself more than I have been able to lately.  Right now I feel like this paper is a huge elephant in my room, constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I’m being productive, and glaring harshly (making me feel guilty) for every minute I’m not.  My current cold is not helping matters, but making the process of writing more like extracting teeth.

But, there is some good news.  Firstly, my dissertation supervisor is meeting me on Thursday to give me some final suggestions, which is good.  I just hope that she doesn’t say the whole thing is ridiculous and scare the crap out of me.

Good news #2: I got an internship in London working with Plan UK!  I’ll be working in the supporter relations department, helping to contact and manage sponsors while also helping with ‘phase outs,’ when they pull out of a community after establishing schools, infrastructure, etc. that communities can then sustain (ideally).  So, starting Sept. 12th I will be commuting to London three days a week, and bringing home the bacon by working part-time at Starbucks.

Oh, and I could not end this entry without mentioning the joy that is the Zippo circus advertisements.  Apparently this circus decided the most effective way to advertise its services (just realized that I used the British ‘s’ in my spellings – that is starting to confuse me) is to ride around Brigton on a huge truck, with a band and loads of people in leotards on it.  I am a fan of it because it gives me an excuse to abandon my dissertation, if only momentarily, to take a look out my window and laugh.  The advert itself is not that exciting, however, but I think some flame-throwers or a tiger could liven it up a bit….

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Feeling Inspired

Well, at least a little. My goal for today was writing at least 2,000 words, but that has not begun to happen yet. Instead, I have spent most of today thinking about the organization of my dissertation, looking back over my fall term’s course notes, and pondering my master’s program in general. The sad thing is, I think I just now get what it was all about. I’m starting to delve into the more theoretical section of my dissertation, which is normally the part I hate most about writing papers, but for some reason it’s actually made me feel more inspired and excited about what I’m writing about.

I guess I haven’t really talked much about my dissertation on here, mostly because it’s been taking over my life this summer, and usually I prefer to use this blog to update friends and family on my doings and whereabouts, not for theoretical musings. I finally am satisfied with my title, which actually sounds a little catchy because of the alliteration. My word count indicates that I’m a little more than halfway through – so approximately 10,000 words left. Two weeks. A lot more writing. I keep going back and forth, from being insanely crazy about it (no time to eat, must write!), to being relaxed and enjoying procrastinating with the flatmates.

This year has gone by so fast. I absolutely cannot believe it. A year ago, I was in the midst of quitting my job at Duke, living out of my car or on the floors of good friends (thanks Katie!), helping mom and Dave move to Richmond, and bumming around for a few weeks, getting everything organized to move here.

This year has been great, though I’m starting to wonder if going into debt this much was worth it. I’ve managed to double the number of countries I’ve visited, learned a lot about the postmodern critique of development, made many new friends from many different places, rediscovered my inner socialite, attended fancy dinners with Thad at Oxford, gained a new appreciation for good beer, and lived in a tiny room with an ocean view. I’m really going to miss that – my view, being able to cross the street and swim in the sea, and hearing the ocean (and drunk Brits singing – I won’t miss that as much) as I fall asleep.

Also, this year was the first time since I was fifteen that I have not had a job. On one level, it’s been amazing – having all my free time to hang out with friends, read, study, wander around Brighton. On another level it’s been crap – having no income sucks! I also don’t feel like a “productive member of society,” whatever that is. And, don’t ask about jobs – the situation here is not looking so good. I should find out Monday whether I get an unpaid internship in London. If not, my job prospects are making Starbucks coffee. Not what I imagined myself doing at 25 with a masters degree!

Today I started reading Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom, and I think I’m going to really like it (and incorporate it into my dissertation). I admire him greatly, as someone who worked for the World Bank, yet still seems optimistic about development and its potential to create positive change. I’m beginning to question my desire to work in this field – it means that in the next few years I will probably be working for free or PAYING to volunteer abroad. People in development always say not to “do it for the money,” – I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening! It’s not just the money issue though – even the most well-intentioned projects seem to have a tint of imperialism in them, and I don’t want to be part of something that increases external power over people’s lives under the guise of “development.”

Which brings me back to my dissertation. It’s about how conservation projects that have supposedly become “community-based” actually increase external power over people’s lives, and enable NGOs, multilaterals, and the state to criminalize actions vital to the livelihoods of rural people. So, I’m dealing with issues of governance, “participation,” how power is upheld through narratives and discourse, and how people have agency to subvert these external mechanisms of control. Does it sound boring? To me it sounds exciting, as does my title.

Anyway, I should stop writing here, stop my theoretical ponderings of development, and actually write. If only writing my dissertation came as easy as this…..

PS – I just got back from spending two days doing some research in the British Library (after my second interview with Plan), and spending a night in Oxford with Thad and Phoenix. It was a great “break,” especially buying nice truffles and chocolate at Hotel Chocolat, my new favorite place to go in London (hurray for free samples)! It was nice to spend some time with both of the boys, and chances are that they next time I see them I’ll be finished with writing my dissertation (all 80 or so pages of it). Can’t wait!

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It feels good to be back in Brighton for more than a three-day stint, after going home and traveling back and forth between here and Oxford so much for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve really enjoyed being with Thad and his housemates in the house (so different from being in college accommodation!), but it hasn’t been very good for getting dissertation work done.

Last Friday after my second internship interview, Thad and I went to Blue Cross with Cornelia to pick up Phoenix.  He was super excited once he saw Thad, but he quieted down well on the car ride home.  I am amazed at how smart and well-behaved he is!  Thad is working with him on several things, but he listens really well.  He’s gotten used to getting up on the bed, but only when he’s invited:

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And he loves long walks, chewing on rawhide, and living in a house where there’s lots of people to pet him.  It will be interesting to see how he does this weekend while Thad is here in Brighton, but I think he’ll deal with the separation ok.

On Friday Thad and I are going to the Lewes Guitar Festival!  He is really excited about being able to see Hayseed Dixie in the UK again.

On a different note, I have exactly one month to finish my dissertation at this point, so I’m getting a little stressed out.  I think it will be ok – I am about 25% of the way there word-count-wise, but I feel like there’s so much left to do!  I’ll be happy once I have more of it down on paper and can really edit it.  I’m looking forward to actually turning in the longest paper I’ve ever written (the final product will be around 75-80 pages) – I hope I have enough time to really fine-tune it and make it as good as I want it to be!

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This week I had my first supervisor meeting, so I'm into full swing trying to get research and reading done for my dissertation.  Ann was really helpful and suggested I start by ensuring there's enough empirical material out there for what I want to do.  I am still trying to formulate an argument around gender and projects that attempt to integrate conservation and development, so I'm hoping an epiphany will strike me soon!

On a different note, several ADST girls went to touch rugby again today in Preston Park, and it was great!  I'm amazed at how much running around it entails – it's a much better workout and a lot more fun than doing anything at the gym.  They also meet on Tuesday evenings, so I may start doing that and quit my gym membership (though I'll miss it!).

In a couple of days Thad and I leave for Paris – it will be my first trip to continental Europe!  Yay! 

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Perhaps I’m finding this more entertaining than I should, but I just read an article that cited Harry Potter! And, believe it or not this is an article about Maasai pastoralists in Kenya.

So, apparently there is a guy named Harry L. Potter who wrote an article titled “Some Thoughts on the Prospects for Diversification in Keyna Maasailand.” This was written in the early 1990s, so well before the Harry Potter books came out, and I wonder what this guy has done since then. As an academic, would you be made fun of for sharing your name with a fictitious adolescent wizard? Has he changed his name, and what have other “Harry Potters” out there done?

That’s emough for today’s musings… back to cranking out the last paper!

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